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André Vlaanderen – L’Europe en Sept 1939

  • Author: André Vlaanderen (artist)
  • Engraver: Leon Burghgraeve (printer)
  • Date: 1939
  • Dimensions: Sheet: 88.5 x 62 cms. Image: 84 x 57 cms. Separate key sheet: 21.6 x 34 cms


Very rare limited edition satirical propaganda map of Europe in September 1939 designed by Dutch artist, André Vlaanderen

About this piece:

(Cornelis) André Vlaanderen (artist) – Leon Burghgraeve, Bruges (printer)


L’Europe en Sept 1939

Sheet: 88.5 x 62 cms. Image: 84 x 57 cms. Orginally hand coloured by the artist and signed by him in lower left border. From an original limited-edition printing of only 150 examples, this being numbered No.13 at lower left border. One or two very minor marks and surface abrasions to peripheries, but generally a bright, freshly coloured & extremely attractive example.

Accompanied by:

Original typewritten key sheet for the map, presented on single paper sheet, 21.6 x 34 cms, and entitled “Carte allegorique de L’Europe en Septembre 1939”. Small hole at top centre above title. Strip of old see-through tape along edge of top margin, the whole sheet now professionally treated for best preservation. The sheet numbered in ink “13” at top left corner and providing a detailed explanation in French of the map’s satirical symbolism & meaning. The description is signed at bottom, in typescript, “André Vlaanderen, Peintre-Illustrateur” with his address at the time, “13 Quai du Miroir, Bruges”.

Exceptionally rare satirical map of Europe designed and published by well-known Dutch-born commercial artist and illustrator, André Vlaanderen [1881-1955]  in Bruges, Belgium at the time of the outbreak of World War Two. The map was issued in a limited-edition print run of just 150 examples and lithographically printed on the presses of local Bruges printer, Leon Burghgraeve. Each indivudual example of the map was numbered (at lower left) and personally hand coloured and then signed by the artist adjacent to the numeration in the lower border. The map also bears the inscrition “André Vlaanderen fecit” in the lower right corner of the image.

Cornelis André Vlaanderen was born in Amsterdam on September 1st 1881. Born to an unknown father and a single mother, he was orphaned at the age of just two. As a result much of his childhood was spent at the “Hospice Wallon” orphanage in Amsterdam, where he resided until the age of 18. His early education was at Amsterdam’s Quellinus School, where he excelled in art and enrolled in a special course on lithography, which stood him in paticularly good stead when he subsequently enrolled in the Amsterdam Academy of Fine Arts in 1898. In 1899 he took up a post in the offices of Eduard Cuypers [1859-1927], one of the Netherlands’ leading architects of the period. From 1903, Vlaanderen found a specialist role within the practice as art & advertising manager of Cuypers’ in-house magazine, Het Huis (from 1905, Het Huis Oud en Nieuw). In 1905 he left to set up his own art and design business, the Grafisch Atelier Andre Vlaanderen. He soon acquired a reputation as a fine poster artist and book illustrator, especially children’s books, as well as developing a notable skill in designing decorative book plates (ex libris), for which he is probably now best-known. An extensive illustrated collection of 160 of these bookplates, belonging to Belgian book collector, A G Stainforth, was published shortly after the Second World War. Vlaanderen’s art and design work has distinctive & recognisable style and a clarity and visual power that resonates with the viewer. It xplains his enduring popularity.

At the age of 20 he undertook a period of national military service and was called up again in 1914 at the outbreak of World War I. In the first months of the War, he was posted with his unit, the 3rd Company of the 23rd Landweer Infantry Battalion, to the Fort at Velsen, near Ijmuiden, to the  West of Amsterdam. Several photographs of him survive from this period of wartime military service.

In November 1906 he had married a fellow resident of the “Hospice Wallon”, Augusta Varangot [1892-1976]. The couple had two children. In 1916 they divorced and Vlaanderen remarried, his second wife being Petronella Andringa [1882-1948]. They were married in Amsterdam on 20th July 1916 and subsequently had three children.

Amongst his most loyal commercial clients were the Dutch bicycle manufacturer, Gazelle, based in the Dutch town of Dieren, for whom he worked with prodigious creativity from 1914 to 1935, illustrating almost all of their advertising & promotional literature during this period, as well as designing the metal Gazelle brand logos that appeared on the bicycles themselves. From 1927 he also worked for the Dutch national radio broadcaster, AVRO (Algemeene Vereenigning “Radio Omroep” (General Association of Radio Broadcasting)). In 1929 he and his family moved to Belgium, initially settling in Ghent before relocating to Bruges in 1933, where he remained throughout the German Occupation during the Second World War. He died there in 1955.

It is interesting to note that the Second World War broke out on Vlaanderen’s 58th Birthday on September 1st 1939 with Adolf Hitler’s long-feared invasion of Poland. It is perhaps what motivated Vlaanderen to commemorate the occasion with a special satirical map. It was something which had hitherto not been a recognised feature of his commercial skill set or artistic remit, though his use of comical anthropomorphic & zoomorphic characters was certainly one of the trademark features of his commercial work, both in his educational children’s books and especially in his advertising & promotional work for Gazelle bicyles.

The map follows a tradition of satirical cartography that dated back to the mid-19th Century, indeed to the very first of the genre, Rock Brothers & Payne’s Comic Map of the Seat of War [1854], designed by illustrator Thomas Onwhyn and focusing on the unsettled political state of Europe at the time of the Crimean War. Such maps would rapidly become a popular marker in contemporary print culture of international flashpoints & military conflicts through the ensuing decades, for example at the time of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 and, again, during the Boer War of 1899-1902. Both were famously commemorated in the wonderfully imaginative Serio-Comic “Octopus maps” of Europe designed by British mapmaker, Frederick W Rose [1849-1915] and published by G W Bacon & Co of London. The genre probably reached its publishing pinnacle during World War One [1914-1918], with a host of satirical maps of Europe and its regions positing the propagandist viewpoints of protagonists on both sides in the conflict, as well as those of many of the neutrals sitting on the sidelines. Amongt them, fellow Dutch cartoonist & illustrator, Louis Raemaekers [1869-1956], best-known for his series of ferociously anti-German war cartoons, who also published a fine satirical map of Europe, Het Gekkenhuis (The Madhouse) [1914]. One wonders if Raemaekers and Vlaanderen might perhaps have met? It is almost certain Vlaanderen would have seen Raemaekers’ cartoons during his Dutch military service during World War I. Though far less prolific or widely circulated, satirical maps such as Vlaanderen’s were notable for their appearance at the outbreak of the Second World War too, the cartographic tradition being especially deeply embedded in countries such as the Netherlands & Portugal. In Lisbon two or three satirical maps were in fact published between 1939 & 1941.

It is interesting to note the manner in which Vlaanderen draws heavily on many of these earlier maps for his imagery, especially many of the symbolic national characters: for example, the Spanish bullfighter; the pipe-smoking Dane; the Phrygian-capped Marianne, Dame Albion with her fleet of ships; the two guard dogs representing the Sweden and Norway; and the portly male figure that is Turkey, seated on his carpet and nonchalantly puffing on his hookah pipe.

It is equally interesting that Vlaanderen should have taken the trouble to publish a separate explanatory key to the map which also includes his address in Bruges. It reveals the special care and attention that he invested personally in the map’s production and description. Unsurprisingly, not all examples of these key sheets appear to have survived alongside the accompanying maps. Often the key sheets seem to have been framed separately and hung alongside the map.

A rough translation of the text of the key sheet reads as follows:

An allegorical Map of Europe in September 1939

(The geographically exact frontiers are indicated by a golden line)

In the middle, the German ogre (3) is represented by Bluebeard, helmeted, and wearing a sash marked with the swastika. The tyrant, having already assassinated two women, Austria (5) and Czechoslovakia (4) now stabs Poland (6) with his left hand. The fluttering sleeve of her dress simulates the “corridor”; adjacent is the Free City of Danzig, marked in red. In his right hand, Bluebeard brandishes a sharp blade towards the west, where Marianne (2), the French maiden, wearing her Phrygian bonnet, commands her troops. To the right of the enemy is wedged the head of a massacred Jew, and the viwer glimpses an English aeroplane dropping propaganda leaflets over the country. Great Britain (1), is symbolised by Dame Albion, directing her ships of the fleet, whilst her bag overflows with reinforcements. The Hebridean Islands and the Shetlands are represented by aeroplanes. To the north-east, the Finnish reindeer keeper (12), watches with irritation as brutal Russia (7),  leaning on his bear, tramples a confused and bloodied Poland; in the background can be seen the towers of Moscow’s Red Square. The three small Baltic states, Lithuania (9), Latvia (10) and Estonia (11), observe in terror this colossus, armed with his hammer and bloody sickle, and wonder what fate holds in store for them.

Hungary (22) feels suffocated under the weight of the mortal remains of her two neighbours. Rumania (23), watches the Russian bear with dread, and Bulgaria (26), also finds herself in an unenviable situation. Puss in Boots represents Italy (8),  wearing a black sash bearing the “fascio romano” and a plumed hat; he does not inspire confidence. Corsica and Sardinia are wrapped in the flags of the powers on which they depend. In Sicily, a cannon is aimed at Tunisia.  Albania (25), provides a “nest of bothersome mice” for Puss in Boots. Yugoslavia (24), a guard dog, is ready to defend her tricolour flag and the piece of meat that it holds between its paws.

Spain (20), is represented as a toreador, who has no time to concern himself with European affairs, given that he has to devote all his attention to repairing his red cloak, now full of holes. Behind him can be seen his country, still devastated and in ruins. At its southern tip, at Gibraltar, a British cannon appears, protecting the approaches to the Mediterranean. Portugal (21), nestling in the folds of his national flag, makes eyes at both Dame Albion and Marianne.

The other neutrals follow: A Dutch soldier (16), standing in front of his flag, takes aim at an aeroplane passing over his territory; Belgium (17), also standing guard, is equally ready to defend his tricolour flag and his neutrality.

No.18 denotes Luxembourg and No.19 the Swiss Cross. In the north, Norway (13) and Sweden (14), are symbolised as guard dogs, held on leashes and with their collars in the national colours. The Dane (15) continues to smoke his pipe without losing sight of all that is happening below him.

In the South, Greece (27), is represented by Athena (Minerva), standing in front of Ionic columns, armed with a lance and sporting a helmet decorated with feathers. 

No.31 shows us the Turk, seated on his Smyrna carpet and savouring his hookah pipe, whilst raising his eyes towards what is happening higher up. Behind him the crescent and the star shine out against a red backdrop.

Finally one can see the coasts of North Africa with Marocco (28), for which Spanish Marocco is outlined, Algeria (29) and Tunisia (30).  The illustrated title of this historic document depicts Death, helmeted, and armed with his bloody scythe, carrying the torch of War. A floating banner bears as a motto a quotation from Horace “Ille Terrarum mihi angulus ridet” (“This corner of the world smiles on me”), a device with dual symbolic meaning, which refers equally well to this part of Europe chosen by Mars as his field of activity, as also to Poland which, desired by both Germany and Russia, was at the origins of this worldwide catastrophe.

André Vlaanderen


23 Quai du Miroir



Only a small handful of the 150 examples originally published appear to have survived.  That so few have survived may reflect the difficulties in secretly preserving documents that were so highly charged with the deepest anti-German sentiment through the wartime years of Nazi occupation. Many examples were probably destroyed or lost during the course of the war. To date we have recorded perhaps nine or ten of these, either offered for sale at auction or through the trade over the past five years or recorded in institutional collections around the World. One example is listed in the holdings of the University of Alberta, Canada. It is interesting to note that several of the most recent examples to appear at auction have surfaced in provincial France, perhaps an indication of where the map was initially marketed & promoted by Vlaanderen in September 1939 (especially given its French text). Equally it may be an indication of the way in which these maps were dispersed across North West Europe by fleeing Belgian refugees as they hastily relocated to provincial France following the Nazi invasion of their homeland in May 1940.

A truly wonderful, rare and little-known example of Second World War satirical cartography.


Refs: E W Bonnet: André Vlaanderen Reclamekunstenaar 1881-1955 (National Fietsmuseum Velorama, Nijmegen, 1993)